Oh, give me a home where the buffalo roam,
Where the deer and the antelope play;
Where seldom is heard a discouraging word
And the skies are not cloudy all day
American Bison grazing in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
Home, home on the range
Where the deer and the antelope play
Where seldom is heard a discouraging word
And the skies are not cloudy all day.
Horses Running Wild
From my arrival at the West Yellowstone Airport to long after when viewing the images that took place in Montana, Wyoming and Idaho, I hear the words to the classic American song Home on the Range. It’s playing on repeat inside my head right now.
Early morning sun rises long after the laboring ranch hand. Summer daybreak still has a chill in the air as the horses’ pounding hooves hit the ground, kicking up a cloud of dust during the morning run at the Parade Rest Ranch.
Maple Syrup in a Country Western Dining Hall
Syrup and pancakes are a plenty. This is the land of meat and potatoes. Hearty meals suitable for those working and playing hard are apparent with the fare found on menus throughout the area. Vegetarians beware. While the vacationing tourist eats breakfast the real cowboys have been up and at it for hours.
Working Cowboy on Montana Dude Ranch
Tee Pee Glamground
Arriving early and staying late for a multiple day photo shoot arranged by iStockphoto photographer, Kriss Russell, I decided to go glamping at a TeePee Campground. Glamping is a fairly new concept where the campsite is already set up. All the preparation and setup involved in camping is removed. Aside from being a cheaper alternative to a hotel room, it’s a great way to experience the land out west.
Montana Cowgirl Rounding up the Herd
Modern times inspire a change in the faces of those rounding up the horses. Women are now just as present in the fields and stables as men. Their tasks and daily duties appear equally arduous as those of their male counterparts
Mount Haynes Yellowstone National Park
Vast open prairies, winding rivers, and sage brush covered ground fill in valleys. Tremendous geological features tower over organic life forms. Remnants of Yellowstone National Park’s historic fire in the 1980s are still visible as fallen tree trunks remain littered throughout the hillsides like broken matchsticks. Wildlife act as celebrities, traffic comes to a halt as bison, elk and bears do their thing. On some level I think they know they own the place. Waterholes and geysers are literally the hot spots.
Young Woman in Traditional Native American Dress
During our photo shoot we were loaned an authentic Native American deerskin dress. The history of the American people is sometimes dark. So rare is it to meet a true Native. Hopefully awareness, conservation and education will keep the culture and spirit of the Native people alive. How different would this country be if their population had not been decimated in the early frontier days?
Retro Road Tripping Camper
Ask a local if they live nearby. Don’t be surprised when their response is, “Not too far, only about 90 miles.” Distance is relative to how far one usually travels. In this raw, sprawling land the average speed limit is 80mph. Towns and natural wonders are spread far apart. Get ready to log some serious miles during your trip here. The congestion of the over populated east an west coasts thankfully has not spread to this part of the United States. I’m guessing that part of that has to do with extremely cold, brutal winters.
Rows of Idaho Potatoes in the Field
Taking a long drive through the tri-state area (Montana, Idaho, Wyoming) let me see agriculture happening outdoors on a grand scale. Endless rows of green potato leaves sprout out of symmetrical brown dirt rows that stretch off to the horizon.
Industrial Grain Elevators in Idaho
Then out of nowhere a ghostly yet functioning town appears. Silos and grain elevators stand tall in the flat lands. A freight car waits on the rails for the week to begin. Industry giants cold and gleaming that are either full of crops, or ready for harvest, remind me of photographer, Margaret Bourke White, a woman who’s career and photography I find beyond inspiring.
Prospector Panning for Gold
The cast of characters available during our shoot ranged from real American cowboys, Montana locals, a gold miner, outlaws, Native Americans, aliens, ghosts and a Western bride and groom. The prospector is a visual representation of the Gold Rush era. Sure money doesn’t grow on trees, but there was a time when gold could be found flowing through the mountain streams.
Little House on the Prarie
With the entire Little House on the Prairie series existing somewhere deep in my subconscious I can’t help but reminisce over the life of Laura Ingalls Wilder. My cabin porch reminds me of an updated version of the family homestead. Placing the model here I keep thinking she’s waiting for Pa to return even in her contemporary western fashion.
Little Cowgirl on the Ranch
What is normal everyday life? Depends on many things. There is no one answer to that question. Often I’m without words when people ask, “What is typically American? The USA, so broad and diverse through it’s heritage, multiple cultures and widely different regions that this is almost an impossible question to answer. For many throughout the world, it has become the norm to slave over a desk attached to a computer and hitched to a smart phone. How wonderful it is to know there are still children growing up in a world outdoors, living on a ranch. Though not my experience there is a nostalgia I have for a simpler time. Freedom to live as one chooses is an American concept that I hope does not go extinct.
Pine Tree Growing on Rocky Cliff Above Snake River
Gravity defying coniferous trees take root in the steep terrain along Yellowstone’s Grand Canyon. Turbulent blue water from Snake River rushes down below.
Colter Bay Village Marina in Grand Teton National Park
Recreational activities in the area are not limited to animal watching and hiking. Boating, fly fishing, swimming, rafting and paddle boarding are a few ways people can enjoy life in this neck of the woods.
Summer Fly Fishing in Montana
Fly fishing is a popular sport. Anglers dress in waterproof clothing to stand deep into the fresh water streams with a goal to catch fish like cuttroat trout, rainbow trout and brown trout. If this is your idea of a good time, make sure to get a fishing permit available through a park visitor center, or ranger station.
Afternoon Mountain Biking
Of course there are endless trails to explore by mountain bike, or horseback.
Red Merle Australian Shepherd in back of a Pickup Truck
At the end of a long summer day in the fresh outdoors even the herding dog knows when to call it quits.
All American Cowboy Couple
Spend time with nature and the people you love. Simple, but unforgettable.
Hayden Valley Sunset in Yellowstone National Park
Watch the sun transform the wide open sky into a kaleidescope of color before fading into a dazzling sparkly night graced with the Milky Way and countless stars. Standing alone in the middle of a field surrounded by darkness I feel relief for the clear night. Arranging my rusty classic subject in frame doesn’t take long. Howling sounds echoing through the valley speed up the photographic process by igniting silent terror within. To get this close to the universe inspires me to do it again and again.
Abandoned Under the Stars in Montana
How often at night when the heavens are bright
With the lights from the glittering stars
Have I stood there amazed and asked as I gazed
If their glory exceeds that of ours.
Like what you see? Want more? Click here to view and license royalty free photographs from my trip to Yellowstone & Beyond.